Friday, May 20, 2011

Green Exercise

The season is summer and the weather is beautiful. We stare out our office windows waiting for the clock to hit 5pm so we can enjoy the few hours of sunshine left gifted to us. The fresh air couldn’t be fresher, unless we went more green. After sitting in a desk all day, people want to grab a meal, go to the gym, or relax on their couch. Well, before settling into your comfy clothes and lazy pants, remember to exercise. If going to the gym isn’t your thing, and playing FitTv just doesn’t cut it for you, I would suggest picking up running.

Last weekend I bought my first pair of running shoes and have been researching the sport ever since. I’ve found out the correct nutrition to indulge in, the right way to stretch, and ways to make it more easy or fun. But is running green? In almost every way, yes, running is eco-friendly. But in one way, which you should consider when entering your sports store, is the shoe.

Some shoe companies have no regard for the environment and crank out shoes from crude oil and toxins. They just came out with these shoes called the FiveFingers that are made for barefoot exercise, such as running and yoga. They are extremely environmentally friendly, and made out of much less material than a regular running shoe. The only drawback is they take a while to get used to, and cost a little bit more for less material. Their company does follow eco-friendly laws and has little impact on the environment. If you have flat feet though, you are out of luck. They are suggested for people with a natural arch to support the weight bearing exercise of running.

So why else is running green? You don’t use electricity, televisions, heavy equipment, special mats, or gym classes. One pair of shoes and sweats is a complete running outfit. Exercise equipment takes energy to design, create, assemble, and ship. And then it takes electricity to light your house or gym to use these machines. Most machines are not designed to move naturally in the way your body is supposed to move when exercising. Running has been in our genes since the dawn of time and therefore comes naturally. It may not be easy to start jogging but walking is a great start. Speed walking can burn many calories and have low impact on your knees, if that is an issue. It has also been shown that being out in nature improves mood. Another way to go green while running is to participate in green races. These races are funded by companies that support and clean the environment, so why not take part?
Here are a few tips to begin running this Summer:

Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a serious issue and can cause you to become sick for days. Add some electrolytes to your water to ensure absorption. Bring an eco-friendly water bottle with you when you go out to exercise. These are sold everywhere these days, so leave the plastic water bottles alone!

Eat carbohydrates. The best thing about running, or at least for me, is that you get to eat plenty of carbs. Grab a cookie, a bowl of cereal, and and some juice before heading out. You’ll need the instant-energy to burst into action.

Stretch. Don’t forget to stretch your legs and neck before and after exercising. Your neck muscles strain to hold up your head as you go from one foot to the next. Make sure you do neck rolls to prevent soreness. Your legs are your power and need complete stretching. I would suggest walking until you are warm and stopping to stretch out. Your  muscles will thank you for stretching them when warm instead of cold because they will be able to go farther and longer. I normally start walking about half a mile, stop and then stretch out. Check out some running stretches before starting your routine.

Don’t just run. Instead of just doing cardiovascular exercising of walking, jogging, and running, include a variety of exercises into your regimen. I like to weight lift for 20 minutes after I get back from a run. You can bring your weights outside and still enjoy the great weather. Every other day I will do a P90x DVD such as Yoga or Kenpo to incorporate strength into all of my muscles. The stronger your whole body is, especially your abs and back, the easier it will be to run.

Good luck and have fun this summer!


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